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Cost of living crisis has students stay local for higher education

For many young people going away to university is a rite of passage but with the cost of living crisis some are choosing to stay local.

South Devon College student Charlie Groves says he was shocked when he realised the cost of accommodation. The 19 year old from Torquay has decided to stay living with his parents when he progresses from school next year to university. He’s planning on studying creative media at University Centre South Devon (UCSD). 

Students choose to stay local amid cost of living crisis

“If I decide to go away to university I would have to get a job to pay for my living costs. If you’re paying £9,000 a year to study you want to focus on your degree,” he said. “My maintenance loan wouldn’t cover everything.”

Charlie, who has a part time job at a café in Torquay, says even basic essentials are stupidly priced now.

But it’s the cost of accommodation that has surprised him the most. “It’s the biggest outgoing and by staying with my parents, even paying some rent, I will save thousands of pounds over three years and that money can pay towards something else like driving lessons.”

Students choose to stay local amid cost of living crisis

Based on a survey of 2,000 students, website savethestudent.org estimates that the average student’s living costs are £924 a month. The biggest outgoing is rent followed by groceries and household bills.

The gap between the number of students living at home and going away to university has narrowed, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), to fewer than 100,000, down from 250,000 in 2014-15.

The data shows that about 850,000 students lived away from home in 2014-15, compared with 586,000 who remained at home. In 2021-22, however, there were 946,000 students away from home compared with 850,000 at home.

Issy Hallam, Student Development and Tutorial Manager at UCSD said: “The rising cost of living is having significant impact on all of us and could potentially impact the future of young people who may be put off their dream of studying a degree level qualification by fears over affordability. You might want to consider staying closer to home to reduce your costs and also to think carefully about out how part time work could fit around your studies. Ask prospective universities how your chosen programme would be timetabled. Some programmes, like those at UCSD, offer convenient timetables that allow you to work part time. You will also want to seriously consider how employable you will be on completion of your programme. Choosing a university with strong connections with local employers will mean you’ll graduate with skills that are in demand in your area, making the cost of your degree worth it in the long term.”

Students choose to stay local amid cost of living crisis

18 year old Grace Harrison from Torquay says she’s seen how the cost of living has affected her household. “My mum has to work more and it’s difficult finding childcare for my two year old sister.”

Grace is currently studying Level 3 Social Sciences at South Devon College and plans to stay living at home when she does her degree.

“For the last few years it’s been on my mind that staying local to do my degree would be a good option for me, “ she explained. “Moving away will be an added stress for me. I am comfortable here and it’s a stress free environment.”

Grace also aspires to buying her own house and doesn’t want to spend money on accommodation at a university further away from home.

“No one in my family has owned their own house and it’s something I want to do and staying at home will help me achieve my goals.”

Grace will be taking a Psychology and Criminology degree at University Centre South Devon as well as working part time as a mental health support worker.

“I want to go into forensic psychology and work with people in prison helping their rehabilitation,” she said.

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